Monday, February 26, 2018


“Let’s work really hard today—your parents are eager for deliverables.” 

I couldn't believe it when I saw this Edward Koren cartoon, which appeared in a recent issue of The New Yorker. Koren’s illustration shows circular tables of little kids working on various projects with scissors, glue, papers, and tape. The teacher, towering overhead, urges them on, calling for “deliverables.” Impersonal business-speak in the kindergarten classroom! Gross!

The problem is that if you’ve read Malcolm Harris’s new book Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, or even if you’ve just been around a lower school classroom recently, the joke falls flat. The picture is all too real. And it doesn't stop at lower school. I wrote a review essay about Harris's terrific book for Public Books.

I've also been reading Nicholson Baker's amazing Substitute, which is eerily akin to Kids These Days. I say "also reading" because it's a serious slog: over 700 pages, recounting around thirty days of working as a substitute teacher in a public school system in Maine—each day meticulously, Bakerly detailed. It's fascinating and disturbing, with iPads becoming an increasingly ominous minor character as the book unfolds.

Speaking of deliverables, but hopefully not the gross kind, we're about to publish four new books in the Object Lessons series—Luggage, Souvenir, Rust, and Burger—bringing us up to 35 since we published our first four volumes in January 2015. I wrote a conversation essay with two of our recent authors, Anna Leahy (Tumor) and Susan Harlan (Luggage), about what it's like to write (and edit) these slim books. The piece is up at the Essay Daily.

I also wrote a piece on jet engines for our series, at The Atlantic. This piece was thrilling to write, on the heels of one of our NEH workshops and on a high from the scintillating energy of our participants and The Atlantic boardroom, where we held the event.

Some of my recent essays and other spurs are starting to converge around a new book idea, a book I'm thinking of calling Future Proof: Anthropocene Remains. I can feel it taking's coming together in my mind....

Friday, February 2, 2018

Advance praise for The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth

The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth captures the essence of what it is like to experience the wildness of the 21st century as an observant, thinking human. The banalities of everyday life mix here with the political urgencies and mediatic confusion of our age. Schaberg has sketched a convincing portrait of this unsettling moment.”

—Christy Wampole, Associate Professor of French, Princeton University, USA, and author of Rootedness: The Ramifications of a Metaphor

“In this book Christopher Schaberg asks us to consider the work of literature not so much as an antidote to ‘post-truth’ political culture in the USA as an alternative way of life. Here literature figures as lively engagement with the world, a practice of enthusiasm and commitment.

—Stephanie LeMenager, Barbara and Carlisle Moore Distinguished Professor in English and American Literature, University of Oregon, and author of Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century

“This rapidly cascading kaleidoscope of lovely readings and thoughts about reading, by the generous and imaginatively mercurial Christopher Schaberg, amounts to a guidebook for the significance of the Humanities in visualizing different futures.”

—Timothy Morton, Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, Rice University, and author of Humankind

Publishing this coming July! Pre-order today.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fly Tying and Building for Flight

a deceiver I tied last spring

I wrote about tying flies in an age of unraveling, for Sierra magazine. My chapter in the new book Veer Ecology elaborates on my obsession with fishing. It has been strange and challenging, but also fun, to write about something that is so close to me, personally—something I've had and done since I was a kid, but which has always felt somewhat distant from my more scholarly interests (whatever that means).

I also wrote about teaching a weird piece of airport futurism, for 3:AM Magazine. As I've been traveling to our NEH Institute workshops over this academic year, I've been watching the new New Orleans airport emerge from the swamp. I hope to learn more about this edifice under construction, and perhaps even take my students out there and get a tour of the project in process, this coming semester or maybe next fall. For now, it exists as an eerie sideshow each time my planes taxi out to the runway, a glimpse of the as yet unrealized future, right before takeoff.

the new New Orleans airport underway

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bumper Stickers

Sometimes in my classes we talk about bumper stickers. What does every bumper sticker say, no matter what it actually says? It says "bumper sticker." This always gets a laugh, but what does it mean? Something about the fantasies bundled up in automobility, about passive aggressive modes of communication and community. And something about tone and tautology: about how the form of a statement—any statement—adorning a car always risks being tuned out because it is seen immediately for what it is: just a bumper sticker, whether it infuriates, agitates, or sparks a fleeting feeling of solidarity or smug mutual understanding.

The other day I was riding my bike from campus to pick up my daughter from school when I saw a Jeep with an assault rifle bumper sticker on display. It was a simple silhouette, suggesting a specific make but also transmitting a general threat: this person is proud of their gun ownership, carries a gun whenever they can, is quite possibly carrying a gun right now.

This might have been troubling enough, but in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting it was especially chilling. How could this image not conjure the awful, meticulous planning and carrying out of the event which left 58 people dead and over 500 seriously injured? I pedaled alongside this vehicle for several blocks. I thought to myself, how does this person feel okay with broadcasting an advertisement for the technologies of violence that caused so many horrific deaths? We know the answer: they disambiguate, they say that guy in Las Vegas was a "lone wolf." If anything, the situation in Las Vegas can become an argument for more guns, more armed citizens wary and watching for the lone wolves or the terrorists, the common burglars or escaped convicts. Inside the head of gun ownership it must be a paranoid place, always someone out to get you.

But what about this bumper sticker? I was still riding alongside the Jeep, seeing the bumper sticker again at each stop sign. Part of me wanted to attempt to scrape it off the bumper; or, if I had a very thick black Sharpie, maybe I'd just add a bold line as a strikethrough:

Either one of these would have been stupid, not least because if the driver saw me tampering with their bumper sticker, they might have blown me away with their assault rifle. How else is one supposed to interpret the mandate of such a bumper sticker?

So I established that I wouldn't tamper with the bumper sticker itself, but there it was again as we stopped at the end of the next block. The Jeep's windows were tinted, so I couldn't get any sense of the driver, no familiarizing or friendly exchange of glances that might have humanized the moment and made me forget about my minor obsession. Instead, I obsessed. What could one do to destabilize or defuse such a sign? Then I thought, what about juxtaposition? What if I carried around a bunch of assorted, random bumper stickers that could simply be slapped next to these guns? Gun bumper stickers are often displayed in stark isolation, feeding into the very monomania that fuels second amendment fanaticism. So what if the scene were just, well, crowded a little? I imagined reaching into my pocket, peeling off the back of the sticker, and slyly affixing one as I pedaled past the Jeep...then another along the next block.

A rubber ducky here, a pile of rocks there...just the stuff of life surrounding the gun. Because this is what bumper stickers resist more than anything: complicating the picture. Bumper stickers drive at common sense understanding, obvious solutions, affiliations with the right group. So what happens when bumper stickers become less clear? What is an assault rifle that jostles with a plastic toy and some stones? I don't know, but it's surely better than the gun on its own, isn't it? Such a grouping might say something about the nature of coexistence, about affiliations that are less than obvious, amalgams that are less than clear in their function or makeup. It might invite dialogue rather than death dealing.

Of course, it's still their Jeep and they have a gun and so I'll keep my bumper stickers to myself, at least for now.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fall 2017 update

a plane sighting in New Orleans

I'm back in New Orleans, and back in the classroom with my Loyola students. This semester I'm teaching an Environmental Theory seminar for juniors and seniors, and two first-year seminars on air travel. It's been something of a jolt, after having been away from campus for a year—but it's good work and I'm grateful to have such energetic students and dedicated colleagues. As I transition back into teaching, and as I think about the unique demands of advising and mentoring students in these strange times, I am trying to work this material into my next book The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth. Here are some recent writings, and a few of these pieces are wending their way into The Work of Literature:

On ticks, for The Philosophical Salon.

On morel mushrooms, at Guernica.

On finding and fighting words after last year's election, with Stewart Sinclair for Avidly.

On the difficulties scholars have writing for broad audiences, with Ian Bogost for Inside Higher Ed.

On humanities at the airport, for Inside Higher Ed.

On Sarah Manguso's 300 Arguments, for 3:AM Magazine.

On ecological disorientation in Don DeLillo's Zero K and in various airline ads, for ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment.

On the importance of sabbaticals, for Inside Higher Ed.

"Wait," a chapter for the book Veer Ecology: A Companion for Environmental Thinking.

"Air Force One: Popular (Non)Fiction in Flight," in the book Popular Fiction and Spatiality: Reading Genre Settings.

Finally, my new book Airportness releases this month! Here's one of the early cover designs for the book that we almost ended up using, but we couldn't track down the artist or gallery to acquire permission:

The image on that cover is part of an artwork from 2005 by Ho-Yeol Ryu, and which periodically goes viral online. I like this image a lot, but I also love the final version of my book's cover, as it better reflects the pensive mood and outward-looking subject positions that frame the book:

Order it today

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Advance praise for Airportness


Airportness is an insightful, witty guide to the ecologies of Earth's strange new habitat. A Thoreau not of Concord, but of the concourse, Schaberg writes with boundless curiosity for the many layers of meaning and contradiction within the physical and mental space of airports.” —David George Haskell, Professor of Biology, University of the South, USA, and author of The Songs of Trees and Pulitzer finalist The Forest Unseen
“With deep insight and a singular brilliance, Christopher Schaberg takes the reader on a journey from curb to curb, chastising us for our indifference to cloudscapes, rekindling our wonder for liftoff, asking us to reckon with airport as metaphor for late-stage capitalism, for American identity, for the last vestiges of faith, even, ironically, for what we call home. Part razor-sharp critique, part advanced elegy for a doomed mode of transportation, Airportness is finally a declaration of love for a threatened land(sky)scape, an imperative to remain awake and alive.” —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
“An enchanting, meditative journey through the cultures and ecologies of contemporary flight. Airportness unsettles places and processes that are often taken for granted, drawing us out into the simultaneously fascinating and disturbing webs of earthly possibility that are tangled up in the world-forming creature we call an airport.” —Thom van Dooren, Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities, University of New South Wales, Australia, and author of Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction
“I loved this book. Exemplifying the enduring value of flânerie, Schaberg's insightful fragments cohere into compelling arguments about supermodernity as we go on a 'trip' with him through the well-worn paths of the contemporary airport. This collage of passionate vignettes, quirky observations and analytical musings made serendipitous connections I hadn't noticed before. His enthusiasm is as infectious as his observations are sharp. It was refreshing for these jaded eyes to see the airport anew. Highly recommended.” —Gillian Fuller, author of Aviopolis: A Book About Airports

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Work of Literature In An Age of Post-Truth

Here's the cover of my next book:

This book is a series of reflections on teaching literature in a liberal arts context in the early years of the twenty-first century. What problems crop up, what opportunities arise, and what lessons I've learned doing this work over the past 16 years or so. I'm finishing up this book over the next six months, and it will be published in 2018.

Monday, February 6, 2017

That jet is next to go

a neat little piece of airportness nestled into my son's schoolwork...

Some of my recent writings could be summed up under the title "From Work to Trump." It would include, among other things, versions of these essays:

After the election, walking it off.

Further thoughts on Trump in relation to environmental consciousness, specifically around the concept of the anthropocene.

Then reflecting the Women's March on Washington, and on Trump's airplane armrest transgressions. (An earlier version of this essay ended up in Airportness.)

The travel ban happens, followed by airport protests.

This kind of writing—a medley of cultural criticism, political theory, ecological thought—all becomes part of the work of literature in an age of post-truth, even though it seems to find itself far from the Norton anthology or the English classroom. It's an interesting experiment, to be writing about things that keep coming up in new (sometimes frightening) ways as each week unravels, from "alternative facts" and the fascinating rhetorical reversals of "fake news," to new tensions within and around air travel, to ever more shocking displays of arrogance concerning ecology, or living on this planet. And then to chart how these things pick up on issues I might have touched on or seen in other contexts—especially in literary texts.

We'll see how this sort of writing continues to form, or if it dissipates. In the meantime, what will happen next? What jam is next to go?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Points of Detention

I'm writing about this image right now, a perhaps seemingly innocuous graphic that appeared above a Washington Post article last weekend:

Monday, January 23, 2017

This is the time

A Southwest 737 taking off from Reagan National the other day...a plane likely full of remarkable, strong women

What a time, what a world!

Fresh back from the Women’s March on Washington, I’m feeling inspired to write and energized to redesign my courses for the fall semester. I’ve been in a funk since the election in November, and I've also been hunkered down trying to channel whatever verve I could muster into my writing, since I had a book due this month. I just turned it in a week ago: it's called Airportness:The Nature of Flight, and it comes out in September. It’s the most carefully structured of my airport books, yet. (It's probably also the last one I'll write on this topic.) And I love how the cover came out:

Meanwhile, I signed a contract with Bloomsbury for a new book, called The Work of Literature In An Age of Post-Truth. I’m tackling some of the things in our current political moment, and thinking through a range of topics related to teaching, writing, and thinking about contemporary literature and it’s roles in the present epoch. One of the things I’ve been struggling with over the past few months is how to return to teaching once I return from sabbatical. All my old reading lists and course frameworks seem obsolete, what with the new political regime in place. I can’t imagine sitting around with my students close reading The Great Gatsby like it’s any other fall semester. (Not that’s how I really teach, but…you know what I mean.)

On the other hand, with Trump as our once unimaginable president, maybe The Great Gatsby is the perfect book to read: the worship of power, shady background dealings, toxic nostalgia, destructive secrecy…it’s all in Fitzgerald’s pages. But I feel like I need to reassess exactly what I’m teaching, and how I'm teaching it—especially my twentieth century American fiction course. In one of the chapters of my new book I’m going to work through some of my previous required readings for this course, and also explore some new stories and novels that I’ve read this year—thinking about how these American fictions I haven't yet taught speak to and speculate about the moment we’re now in, in the nonfiction world ("alternative facts" notwithstanding).

While driving back from DC I also sketched out a few new ideas in my head, which hopefully I can wrangle into essays and pitch them to places over the next couple months. So I've got a lot to do over the remaining months of my sabbatical. But I'm convinced that this is the time to do get to work, if we want things to change for the better. This is the time. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Summer recap

dunes, clouds, trees...up in Michigan

I’ve been up in Michigan again this summer, spending a lot of time with my family, as well as getting out in the woods and fly fishing on my favorite lakes and streams. I’ve also been getting some work done.

I published a piece on careerism in college at Public Books—it’s part of a short book I’m working on about liberal arts education. This year I am going to volunteer at the small public school I graduated from in northern Michigan, offering guidance and advice to juniors and seniors who are researching college options. Since I graduated from high school, I’ve had experiences at four quite different institutions around the country—as a student and as an instructor—and I hope I can help some students in their searches for a good fit. I hope to learn about what high school students think about college, and see how this accords (or not) with my sense of liberal arts education in the early twenty-first century. If the experience is interesting, I’ll write about it—maybe it will even become a part of the book.

I wrote a review of Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K for 3:AM Magazine.

I wrote a piece for Inside Higher Ed on how scholars can use Twitter.

I revised a book chapter for a collection called Sweet Spots: Interstitial New Orleans. The book should be out sometime next year from the University Press of Mississippi, and my chapter is about Louis Armstrong International Airport as a specially liminal space.

I wrote an article for a transportation-themed issue of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature and Environment. My contribution is, not surprisingly, on air travel—but I’m moving in new directions that come out of my current book-in-progress, Airportness: The Nature of Flight.

I’m making good headway on Airportness and plan to deliver the final manuscript in December.  There’s still a lot to do, but I am at the point where I can visualize it in my mind—I can see the shape of the whole book, and see how the pieces have to fit together. It’s a fun if also daunting part of the book assembly project: moving blocks of writing around, creating transitions, experimenting with formal flourishes and other structural details, and so on.

I’ll present a piece from Airportness at the Western Literature Association conference in Big Sky, Montana, later this month. My paper is called “Airportness in the West: Fame, Fantasy, Frontier.” I'm on a panel called Dispatches from the Post-West.

Meanwhile I’ve been reframing my “Up in Michigan” book project, and I have focused it on broader issues of ‘place’ and the problems and possibilities of landscape ecology in the age of the Anthropocene. I’ve honed a fresh version of the proposal and hope to finish the book during the second half of my sabbatical year (so, January through next summer). Reading Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk prompted me to think creatively about how I can indulge in nature writing while also critiquing it from the inside, as it were.

Lit Hub revealed a bunch of new book covers and titles signed for our series Object Lessons. We’re about to enter an intense period of serious manuscript editing, as we prepare to release a mega-batch of books in the series in late 2017. If only I could have a bunch of my wonderful Loyola students up here in Michigan, to help me with the series! (Luckily, I have a couple dedicated students working with me from afar.)

I’m heading now into sabbatical, for real. It is very odd to be feeling the sun shift to the south up here in Michigan…usually by this point we are back in the sweltering heat of New Orleans, settling into our autumn rhythms there. It’s strange to not be in the classroom. I don’t miss all the various meetings and never-ending budget crises, but do I miss my colleagues and my students. Yet here we are in the north country, and just last night it got very cool. Wind in the pines, a kind of wind I haven't felt in a long time. The bracken fern have all turned gold, on the hillsides. It’s very dark now in the mornings, when I get up to write.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Airport Battle

Last week I followed one of those frequently insane suggestions on Amazon for things I might be interested in, based on my browsing history. And, I’ll admit, this one was immediately intriguing: it said Lego Airport Battle. The full description was Super Hero Airport Battle, and as I inspected this set I was at turns baffled, turned off, and utterly delighted.

The set is apparently based on a scene from the recent blockbuster Captain America: Civil War, which features a tumultuous battle on the tarmac.

Think about what the Lego set does with this scene. All the objects and operations of the airport are distilled to the bare minimum: a Tug and baggage cart (replete with spilling suitcases), some illuminated wands for the (absent) ramp worker, barricades with no-entry signs, and an air traffic control tower. Some cryptic containers, too. All else is implied, and the scene is given over to the Marvel super heroes who are wreaking havoc on the non-place. On the Lego packaging, the tarmac is busted and the baggage cart is tipped over. In the movie, the floor-to-ceiling windows get smashed, a car park is demolished, and explosions rock the terminal (among other acts of destruction).

This Lego set and the cinematic scene it is based on got me wondering: why stage attacks at airports, whether for terror purposes or entertainment? I decided to write about this for The Atlantic.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review of The End of Airports

A nice review of The End of Airports appeared in the Times Literary Supplement:

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Back Up in Michigan

a beaver swims in the distance, across one of my favorite lakes on a still morning

I'm back up in Michigan, this time for a full year! Sabbatical—I never thought it would feel so good.

I've always thrived on the synergy between teaching and writing, but I now understand the great gift of sabbatical, to take a step back from teaching—hopefully to reassess, rethink, and reimagine life in the classroom. And also to truly focus on writing. During the school year I tend to write in undisciplined bursts in the middle of the night or whenever I can grab a few minutes to jot down a sentence. I'm looking forward to sitting down in the daytime and really stretching out into my writing.

I'm working on three books right now, and they stop and start in unexpected ways. I'm trying to let myself follow the whims and explosions of thought around each of these projects. I pick them up and put them down as ideas occur to me, as research forays present themselves.

The first book I am going to finish is Airportness. This book is turning out to be very fun to write—I'm taking a more structured approach to the topic than my previous airport books did, and this structure is pushing me in new directions. I'm also revisiting a lot of material that I wasn't able to include in my first two books, and in many cases the time lag is turning out to be beneficial—things just get weirder and weirder when it comes to air travel, and some things that seemed prescient or insightful a few years ago are even more so, now.

Once Airportness is done, I plan to turn to my Michigan book, a strange book about place and eco-criticism—it keeps changing form in my mind and on the page, shifting from one thing to another. I've been thoroughly enjoying Helen Macdonald's book H is for Hawk, as well as Jeffrey Jerome Cohen's new book Stone. Both of these books are helping me think about how to write a different kind of 'nature' book.

Then I'm also working on a short book about liberal arts—I'm calling it "a quiet manifesto." Like David Foster Wallace sitting in an airport coffee shop writing about his cruise ship experience after seven days in the Caribbean Sea, I'm sitting up in the woods writing about my seven years teaching in a liberal arts context at a small university in New Orleans. (The analogy breaks down, at this point.)

Other than my own writing projects, we've got some thrilling new Object Lessons books in the works. More on those soon, but I just want to say here how gratifying this series has been to work on, with such great support from Haaris Naqvi and the entire Bloomsbury team, and my unswerving co-editor Ian Bogost. We have four wonderful new titles in the series coming out next month: Hair, Bread, Questionnaire, and Password. (Also, Ian's new book comes out in the fall, and it's so good!)

Finally, Mark Yakich and I are excited to see our edited collection of essays Airplane Reading hit the shelves next month. If you are looking for some good summer reading, this book is it.

I'll try to update this blog more frequently, now that I have more time for disciplined writing habits to form. But, we'll see.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Introducing Kara Thompson (& Environmental Cultures)

This week I had the pleasure of hosting my great friend Kara Thompson at Loyola. Kara and I were at UC Davis together as graduate students, and we've been trying to coordinate a visit to one of our campuses or the other for several years—and it finally worked out. The timing ended up being perfect in many ways. Kara visited my classes, and I was so pleased with how my students engaged Kara's work (and I was delighted that Kara managed to assign the perfect reading with which to wrap up the semester, Mel Y. Chen's "Toxic Animacies, Inanimate Affections"). Later in the day Kara gave a wonderful public talk that wove together threads from Prince, Jurassic Park, diagrams of hydraulic fracturing, Fredric Jameson, and Walt Whitman's poem "I Sing the Body Electric"—among other rich visual and cultural texts. We had a good turnout (especially considering it was so late in the semester), comprised in part of many of our terrific Environment Program students, who were a vibrant audience for Kara's presentation.

A couple years ago I started posting the introductions I write for various visitors' talks, because I realized that our written introductions for such events often end up in the trash—but I actually enjoy writing these things, and I want to preserve them somewhere (like here). So once again, here is my introduction to Kara's scintillating talk at Loyola, "Fracking and the Art of Subtext."


Just yesterday I watched a video introduction by eco-critic Richard Kerridge for a new series of books with the theme of "Environmental Cultures." The scope of the series was astonishing and thrilling—books in the series could be about practically anything so long as the authors could make smart connections to matters of environment, ecology, or nature. So this series might include animal studies, posthumanism, feminist ecocriticism, cultural geography, disaster theory, new materialisms, queer ecology, nature writing unbound...there would seem to be no limit.

As I say, this is exciting: once we loosen our definition of "nature," or realize, rather, that there's no outside of it, anything becomes a subject, or an object of serious inquiry. Environmental studies goes anywhere, with anything. But this can be daunting, too—or just plain bonkers. Imagine sitting inside the airport to practice "environmental studies"! When you say that something is anything, where to begin (or end)? How does one demarcate a project, establish an archive, conduct experiments, interpret results, formulate a theory—any of these things, when ecology is understood to be such an endlessly seeping, leaking, expanding field? One tentative answer: you have to do it very carefully, and with keen attention to detail, contradiction, and slippage.

And this is where Kara Thompson's work comes in.

Kara Thompson, assistant professor of English and American Studies at the College of William & Mary, works on the edge—or at the intersection, or overlap—of disciplinary thought. Bringing cutting edge critical theory to bear on tense questions of borders, territory, sexuality, national identity, and indigeneity, Kara's research routinely unsettles what we might think of as set in stone. Indeed, in Kara's thinking even "rocks" become points of fascination and are thereby unsettled from their resting positions as inanimate objects.

But once the land itself becomes so open to interpretation—as in fact we know it is, from the most mundane property dispute to the most heated national border debates—then what to we do about the things that would seem to grow organically from the land, whether they be so-called invasive plants, or human settlements? How do citizens become naturalized? What is a foreigner, or a foreign object? Are attractions natural, are repellents cultural? Have these sorts of frameworks outlasted their use (and maybe for good reason)?

Everything is in play, nothing can be taken for granted. We are in the weeds, right here, across the street from Audubon Park, sitting in this nice neat quiet and climate controlled room. Welcome to "environmental cultures" writ large. This is no mere academic exercise—this is real life, fecund and brimming. Here we have to read closely and carefully, and go slowly—and we need a good guide. Kara Thompson's writing takes us into the utterly familiar, which may then turn out to be bizarrely unfamiliar. But the wager is that such interpretive adventures will make us see—and act more justly in relation to, while entangled with—the rich complexities of this world, our present place in space.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Airportness: The Nature of Flight

I am very happy to announce that I just signed a contract for my next book, which will be published by Bloomsbury in fall 2017. The book is called Airportness. Here's a short description of what this book is about: 
Airportness takes the reader on a single day’s journey through all the routines and stages of an ordinary flight. From curbside to baggage, and pondering the minutes and hours of sitting in between, Christopher Schaberg contemplates the mundane world of commercial aviation to discover “the nature of flight.” For Schaberg this means hearing planes in the sky, recognizing airline symbols in unlikely places, and navigating the various zones of transit from sliding doors, to jet bridge, to lavatory. It is an ongoing, swarming ecosystem that unfolds each day as we fly, get stranded, and arrive at our destinations. Airportness turns out to be more than just architecture and design elements—rather, it is all the rumble and buzz of flight, the tedium of travel as well as the feelings of uplift. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Earlier this month, sitting on the tarmac on a airplane in Detroit, in the middle of what would become a three-hour runway delay, which would then turn into a twelve-hour flight cancellation and rebooking protrusion, I pulled up the map on my iPhone to show my son Julien where we were, exactly, in line for de-icing. As the satellite view focused, I watched the airliners and jet bridges blur, liquid like, as they settled into proper resolution. For a moment it resembled a Wayne Thiebaud cityscape, the way the recognizable forms of the airport veered and smeared, hyperreal. I quickly captured the image mid-focus, which you can see above. My new book The End of Airports puzzles over these sorts of strange, spontaneous comportments: when we are in the airport on the brink of flight; tethered to the ground while visualizing ourselves soaring above the earth; or sitting in jetliners at cruising altitude feeling nowhere at all, not exactly.... I still have more to say about this experience. Maybe in the next book.

Some big news, related to my new book: Nathan Heller's ruminative article on flight in this week's New Yorker, "Air Head," cites The End of Airports fairly substantially. I was delightfully surprised, and honored, to see my work on airports discussed so thoughtfully throughout Heller's piece.

My special issue of Criticism on "critical air studies" is now out; this issue features an array of scholarly inquiries into the culture of flight, and I'm very happy with how it came together. You can read the beginning of my introduction to the issue here, and here's the cover of the issue, which riffs on airport carpets (but not PDX). 

And if you are craving some lighter reading on the culture of flight, our book Airplane Reading is almost out! The book should be published in May: 54 wonderful contributions by a wide range of writers and air travelers. This book was a blast to put together with my great friend and colleague Mark Yakich. Look at the cover, a fantastic collaboration between Nancy Bernardo and the design team at Zero Books:

A couple other things while I'm in overview mode: I wrote a piece about the Millennium Falcon in the new Star Wars movie "The Force Awakens" for the Los Angeles Review of Books' Philosophical Salon, and I wrote a review of Maggie Nelson's book The Argonauts, for 3:AM Magazine

Finally, last but not least, Object Lessons continues to bloom, with fifteen books now published and many many more in the pipeline. You can hear Alison Kinney talk about her new book Hood, and me talk about the series in general, on a Jefferson Public Radio show we did together the other day. LARB also did a long interview with me & Ian about the series, and then later they ran a generous omnibus review of the first ten books in the series. I wrote a bit on the Bloomsbury Literary Studies blog about teaching with the series at Loyola, an experience I'm eager to recreate in Fall 2017, when I return from my sabbatical. Object Lessons continues to be a thrilling adventure in editing and publishing—with no end in sight.